Note: This exhibit is CLOSED. For reference only.
|The Historical Society of Delaware (now the Delaware Historical Society) joins in the celebration of Ardens centennial
with a new exhibit, "You Are Welcome Hither": Arden, Delaware, 1900-2000,
which will be on display in the Willingtown Square gallery from June 20 to November 10,
2000. The exhibit tells Ardens story through photographs, memorabilia, and documents
from the Societys collections. Ardens centennial commemorates both the life of
the community and the survival of its founders ideals.
Two Philadelphians, sculptor Frank Stephens and architect Will Price, dreamed of founding a community where they could bring their economic and social ideals to life. They believed in both Henry Georges Single Tax philosophy and William Morriss Arts and Crafts principles. The Single Tax movement, popular in the U.S. in the 1890s, believed that the best way to raise government money was by a single tax on land only. The tax would be the same whether the land was improved or not. William Morris, an Englishman, rebelled against modern cities and industry. He advocated a return to craft production, good design, and village life.
Stephens and Price first came to Delaware in 1895-1896 during the single-tax campaign to win political control of the state. The Single-Taxers hoped that by gaining control of a small political entity they could put their principles into action and show that they could really work. The exhibit will show a rare copy of Justice, a single-tax newspaper published in Wilmington in April 1896. The campaign failedmany of the activists were jailedbut Price and Stephens did not give up their dream.
In 1900, they purchased the Derrickson farm in northern New Castle County. Price designed a town plan that preserved communal open space and encouraged people to mingle with their neighbors. Stephens and Price adopted "You are welcome hither" as the community motto because they wanted Arden to be a place open to people of all economic levels and political views, a new departure in an era when restrictions were the norm. Price never lived in Ardenhe was more deeply involved in Rose Valley, another idealistic community nearby in Pennsylvaniabut Frank Stephens did. His enthusiasm, leadership, and ideas guided Arden from a dream to reality. His son Donald also played a vital role in the community.
Land in Arden was not sold but leased for 99 years. People were free to improve it as they chosethe land rent/tax would not increase because of improvements. At first, Arden was a summer community. People lived the simple life in tents or rustic dwellings. Year-round residence began in 1905. After that residents gradually built permanent homes. By 1909, all the land had been leased. There were 115 leaseholders and 50 houses, but only 50 year-round residents. Documents and photographs will show how Arden looked in its early years and how the community operated.
From the beginning Shakespeares plays and the customs of Merrie Old England inspired Ardens rich community life. The founding of the Arden Club in 1908 provided an organizational core for community activity. Interest groups and task groups were called gilds rather than committees. From the beginning, Shakespeares plays were produced in the outdoor Field Theater. Fairs, pageants, and Arden holidays filled the calendar. Monthly town meetings of all the "Ardenfolk" gave everyoneincluding women and childrena voice and vote in town affairs. A wealth of flyers, brochures, and other memorabilia vividly recall activities in Arden over the years.
It took longer to implement the Arts-and-Crafts ideal because the community was so small at first. Many people worked in Wilmington or Philadelphia. In 1913, the Craft Shop was built, which provided facilities for various artisans. Arden crafts, especially from the Arden Forge and Arden Weavers, became popular in the area.
Arden proved so popular that it expanded twice, with Ardentown in 1922 and Ardencroft in 1950. Today, the Ardens remain an open, single-tax community that encourages all sorts of artistic and intellectual expression and a strong community life.
"You Are Welcome Hither": Arden, Delaware, 1900-2000 was displayed from June 20 to November 10, 2000 in the Willingtown Square Gallery at the Delaware History Center. The History Center campus dominates the 500 block of Market Street in downtown Wilmington, and is comprised of the Delaware History Museum, Old Town Hall, Willingtown Square historic park, and the Delawar eHistorical Society Research Library.
The Willingtown Square Gallery at the Delaware History Center is open 1-9 p.m. Monday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Admission is free Monday-Friday. On Saturday, the exhibit is included in admission to the Delaware History Museum, open 10 a.m. 4 p.m. Admission on Saturday is $4 adults, $3 seniors/students, $2 ages 2-17, free younger than 2. For more information call (302) 655-7161.
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